Study Aid 5: Gothic Architecture Outside of France

Great Britain
Due to close dynastic and cultural ties, England was the first country outside of France to embrace the Gothic style of design. In fact, French master mason, William of Sens, was responsible for the earliest major Gothic structure in England Trinity Chapel, (Canterbury, 1174-1184) a rather faithful adaptation of the new French taste. Other early examples of the Gothic were built by French Cistercian monks who used it for its structural stability and economy, not its ornate qualities.However, the English quickly created an independent approach to Gothic design that distinguishes English Gothic from that on the continent. These distinctive features include: greater sculptural articulation of structural elements; more massive, less skeletal designs; polychrome stonework; long buildings with more of a horizontal emphasis on the interior elevation; a massive screen-like facade; great crossing towers; and the development of the chapter house as a significant element of the total design, e.g. Salisbury Cathedral, 1220-1258,master mason, Nicholas of Ely,Elias de Dereham designer(?) As time progressed , English Gothic architects strayed ever more from the relative simplicity and structural clarity of the French High Gothic and displayed an increasing taste for experimentation, inventiveness, and elaborate decoration. Often called the Decorated Style of the Gothic, this approach was characterized by plastic architectural forms, complex curves and very complicated rib vaults resembling nets or webs, e.g. The choir chapter house and strainer arches of Wells Cathedral, early 14th century. This new aesthetic was actually transmitted to France where it influenced the late French Gothic designs. The final phase of the Gothic in England is called the Perpendicular Style, which exhibits remarkable lightness within a rather controlled, grid-like framework. Marvelous ceilings composed of fan vaults were also created at this time, e.g. the choir (1331-1350) and cloister (1351-77) of Gloucester Cathedral; King's College Chapel, Cambridge, England, 1446-1515, completed under Henry VIII by architect William Wastell; and Henry VII's chapel, Westminster Abbey, London, 1503-19.

Germany and Central Europe
Over the long course of Gothic architecture in what is now Germany, architects there were influenced by both the French and the English. From the the French they took structural logic and verticle orientation, (e.g. Cologne (Koln) Cathedral, begun in 1248 under master mason Gerhard, finished in the 19th century); as well as the delicacy and lightness of the Rayonnant Gothic, (e.g. Strasbourg Cathedral, Erwin von Steinbach and others). Single enormous towers with perforated spires became a hallmark of German Gothic, e.g. Ulm Cathedral, tower designed in 1482 (and completed 1890) by Matthaus Boblinger. Inspired by English innovations in vaulting, the Germans developed ceilings with web- or net- like rib vaults. Perhaps the most distinctive German contribution to the Gothic was the exploitation of the idea of the hall church, in which the side aisles reach the same height as the nave, e.g. Frauenkirche, Nuremberg, 1354-61, rebuilt after 1945; Annenkirche, Annaberg, 1499-1525, with "floriated" rib vaults by Jakob Heilmann. Invented near the end of the Gothic era, "cell" or folded vaults created some remarkably abstract, sculptural interiors, e.g. Albrechtsburg Palace, Meissen, Germany, 1471-, Arnold von Westfalen architect; Franciscan church, Bechyne, Czech Republic, c. 1490-1500.

Spain and Portugal
French Gothic designs were also transferred to Spain. The Cathedral of Burgos was begun in 1221 under master mason Ricardo and had features in common with Bourges and Coutances in France. The later openwork spires (c. 1440) reveal the German origins of their architect, Juan de Colonia (John of Cologne). The abbey Church in Batalha, Portugal (1386-1515) demonstrates a debt to English Perpendicular design and French Flamboyant. Gothic vaulting was even used in some of the early Spanish colonial churches built in Mexico.

As in the Romanesque period, the Gothic architecture of Italy demonstrated a wide variety of approaches. The cathedral of Milan, 1386-, in Northern Italy shows the influence of French and German work. However, the Gothic designs of Central Italy often lack rich Gothic sculptural detailing and show less enthusiasm for the articulated verticality and structural virtuosity of the northern countries. Instead, the proportions, balance, and solidity of Italian gothic buildings demonstrated the persistent influence of its ancient classical heritage, e.g.: San Francesco, Assisi, 1228-1253, cloister 1476; Santa Maria Novella, Florence, 1246-; and the Duomo (the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore) of Florence, 1296-1420, Arnolfo di Cambio and Francesco Talenti architects.

Secular Architecture
Although religious edifices were the most important buildings erected during the Middle Ages, the Gothic style (or sometimes merely Gothic ornament) was also applied to secular structures. In some cases, the dimensions and details of secular gothic buildings rivaled that of the great cathedrals, e.g.: the Doges Palace (aka Palazzo Ducale), Venice, Italy, largely 1340s to 1440s, various architects: Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, 1299-1320, Arnolfo di Cambio architect; the Ca' d'Oro', Venice, Italy, 1421-1440, Giovanni & Bartolomeo Bon and Matteo Raverti architects, Marco Contarini patron; the hospital at Beaune, France, 1443-51; the "Palace" of Jacquer Coeur, Bourges, France, 1443-; Vladislav Hall, Prague Castle, Czech Republic, 1492-1502, built as an audience and tournament hall for King Vladislav Jagellon by Benedict Ried (or Reith) architect; Westminster Hall features a wooden hammerbeam roof, London, England, 1394-1420; Merton College, Oxford, England, 14th century; St. John's College, Cambridge, 1511.

Salisbury Cathedral

Date: Largely 1220-1258
Location:Salisbury, England
Architect: Elias de Dereham?
Master Mason: Nicholas of Ely


Section of Salisbury Cathedral
Compared to
The Cathedral of Amiens, France


Aerial View


Rear Elevation with Crossing Tower
(Crossing Tower Added in the 14th Century)


Interior View of Nave


Interior View of Nave at Gallery Level

King's College Chapel

Date: 1446-1515
Location: Cambridge, England
Architect: John Wastell, et. al.
Patron: Henry VIII, et. al.


Front Elevation


Side Elevation


Construction Diagram - Fan Vault


Interior View


Interior View
Fan Vault Detail


Date: 1499-1525 AD
Location:Annaberg, Germany
Architect: Jakob Heilmann, et. al


Floor & Vaulting Plans


Interior View of Ceiling - Web or Net Vault


Interior View - Column and Ceiling


Interior View - Nave


Exterior View - Front Facade and Tower


Exterior View - Transept and Apse

Basilica of St. Francis
(San Francesco)

Date: 1228-1253 AD
Location: Assisi, Italy
Architect: Unknown


View from Below the Town




Interior View


"St. Francis Preaching to the Birds"
by Giotto, circa 1297

The Duomo (Santa Maria del Fiore)

Date: 1296-1420
Location:Florence, Italy
Architect: Di Cambio & Talenti


Comparison of Plans
by Talenti & Di Cambio

Date: 1334-1360
Location:Florence, Italy
Architect: Di Cambio & Talenti


View of Companile by Giotto, F. Talenti, et. al.

Date: 1296-1420
Location:Florence, Italy
Architect: Di Cambio & Talenti

Rear Elevations

South Facade and Transept

Side Elevation



Interior View

Venice, Italy

View of Venice Including
Doge's Palace and The Campanile

Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale)

Date: 1340-1440s
Location: Venice, Italy
Architect: Various


Painting by Canaletto, circa 1745

East Side

Southeast Corner


East Elevation


View of Upper Loggia


Aerial View of the Doge's Palace and Other Buildings Around Piazza San Marco

Doge's Palace and the Piazetta S. Marco

Porta Della Carta


Carved Column Capital

Carving Depicting Noah's Drunkenness